In today’s Bible reading Paul asked some disciples in Ephesus if they had received the Holy Spirit when they believed. (Acts 19:1-4)
Like Apollos in yesterday’s reading, they had only heard of — and received — John’s Baptism; they knew nothing of the Holy Spirit. When Paul told them the rest of the story, they were baptized in water and received the Holy Spirit, manifesting Him through tongues and prophesying. (Acts 19:6) This is the same manifestation we saw in Acts 2:4 when Jesus’ Disciples received the Holy Spirit and when the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit in Acts 10:46).
Although tongues and prophecy aren’t specifically mentioned when the Samaritans received the Spirit in Acts 8:17–18, Simon’s response seems to indicate something similar happened here as well.
Assuming that my inference is correct, there are only four places in the entire book of Acts where we’re told that the Holy Spirit manifested with tongues and prophecy. I find this significant in light of the over-emphasis seen in many churches and ministries in the past one hundred years. I say over-emphasis because so many insist that the Holy Spirit always manifests in these ways when people understand the whole Gospel.*
* By the whole Gospel, I’m referring to 1) the proclamation that of Jesus’ resurrection and accepting of Jesus’ death on the cross to atone for the sins of those who repent, 2) water baptism to symbolize the Believer’s union with Jesus’ death and Resurrection, and 3) the proclamation that God’s Holy Spirit indwells believers to empower them to live a holy life. The book of Acts (and the Gospels) is unique in that it describes people believing in the progressive revelation of God as it was being revealed: John’s baptism of repentance, belief in Jesus’ resurrection and immediate water baptism, and the receiving/baptism of the Holy Spirit. Those who only receive John’s baptism of repentance aren’t told of the baptism of Jesus and the Holy Spirit’s enabling power. Later, when they hear of the Holy Spirit’s baptism, God manifests the Spirit in the same way (tongues and prophecy) to validate the person’s Holy Spirit baptism.
In other words, what Dr. Luke describes in Acts is not prescribed for the future church. In contrast to Acts, the Holy Spirit now takes up residence in the new Believer when they repent/believe/are saved and as he/she yields to His leading over time, the Spirit manifests in the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) In fact, Paul says that the baptism of the Holy Spirit actually makes us Christians, uniting new Believers to the Body of Christ. (1 Corinthians 12:13) Further, Paul urges Believers to be continually filled with the Spirit. (Ephesians 5:18)
In summary — and speaking generally, today, the operation of the Spiritual gifts of tongues and prophecy (for evangelism and equipping) is different today than it was in the book of Acts (for revelation and validation).
The Holy Spirit sovereignly gives Believers various spiritual gifts for the purpose of evangelizing the lost and equipping Believers to grow in their faith. No one gift is more — or less — valuable than any other. All spiritual gifts should be used for the service and glory of God rather than the Believer who has been given the gift(s) by God.
I know that some of what I have said here is up for debate among believers. These issues are not primary issues of faith; they are areas where Christians should be able to agree to disagree. My hope is that this brief devotional helps to shed some Biblical light on some questionable, commonly-held theology.
Apollos was an eloquent preacher. He was well-versed in the Old Testament Scriptures. He knew his stuff. But he wasn’t “up to snuff”.
In today’s Bible reading, Dr. Luke tells us about an Alexandrian preacher named Apollos. Look at the positive words Dr. Luke uses to describe him: eloquent, competent in the Scriptures, instructed in the way of the Lord, fervent in spirit, speaking and teaching accurately about Jesus. (Acts 18:24-26)
But Luke adds that Apollos only knew of John’s baptism. So Aquilla and his wife Priscilla take him aside and teach him more accurately. What was lacking? What needed clarification?
If Apollos only knew of John’s baptism, he didn’t know about the Holy Spirit’s baptism and Jesus’ resurrection. Those are some very important things! The Holy Spirit’s baptism and Jesus’ resurrection are what make Christianity more than just another religion or a cult of Judaism. With those two realities, Believers are empowered to live the life that the Jewish Law prescribed. Radio commentator Paul Harvey would have said that the Holy Spirit’s baptism and Jesus’ resurrection are “the rest of the story”.
Yes, Apollos preached about Jesus accurately. But he needed to know — and experience — more accurately. And by taking him aside and explaining the rest of the story, Aquilla and Priscilla changed his trajectory from being an eloquent preacher to being an empowered preacher. Being eloquent wasn’t enough for Apollos. And it isn’t enough for you or me. We also must be empowered by the Holy Spirit to live the obedient life to which we’ve been called.
It’s relatively easy for someone to go out and get an education and then teach the truths of the Bible. But being empowered by the Holy Spirit takes the education to “a-whole-nother” level. God doesn’t want us to simply transfer knowledge from one person’s head to another person’s head. God wants us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2) as the Holy Spirit applies the truths to our hearts.
Are you being renewed? Are you seeking to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit? (Ephesians 5:18)
Don’t settle with mere head-knowledge.
For a good, First Century Jew, I’m sure there was not much more detestable than going into the home of a Gentile. But in today’s Bible reading, Peter did just that.
Both Peter and Cornelius had a vision from God and both acted on what they heard. Cornelius sent men to where Peter was and Peter had to go with them to Cornelius’ home. But Peter’s vision — given three times — emphasized that what God has made clean is clean, and you aren’t to question it. So when invited, Peter went.
A little background: Cornelius is called a Centurion. A Roman Centurion was a commander in the Roman Army. One hundred Roman soldiers reported to him. So can you imagine the influence that he had for the cause of Jesus Christ when he was saved?
Cornelius’ men escorted Peter and some other men to Cornelius’ home. When Peter entered, Cornelius bowed to worship Peter and was quickly rebuked; Peter wanted him to realize that he was no different than any other man. (Acts 10:26) But can you imagine what it looked like for a Roman Centurion to bow down before a Jew? Wow!
As Peter was speaking, the Holy Spirit fell on Cornelius and everyone else who had gathered in Cornelius’ home. (Acts 10:44) Dr. Luke doesn’t tell us how many there were. He doesn’t tell us if it was just Cornelius’ family, or maybe there was a group of his soldiers, too. Regardless, everyone there responded to the move of the Holy Spirit, was saved and baptized.
Those who were saved asked Peter to stay for a few days. I’m sure they wanted to hear more. If they were soldiers, I’m sure they had a lot of Gentile-based questions for this Jew. And I’m sure that seeing Gentiles brought to faith in Christ caused Peter to ask a lot of questions, more of himself and God than the Gentiles who had just been saved.
God wants us to tell other people about Jesus. He has no other plan to reach the lost. Think about that! If anyone is to be saved, they have to have contact with a Christian who can explain the Gospel message to them. And like Peter, we must be willing to go, regardless of where that is. And regardless of whom. Today’s Bible reading makes it clear that the Gospel message is for all kinds of people.
Are you ready to share your faith with anyone anywhere? If you’re not sure of what the Gospel message is and how to explain it to someone else, take a look at this video. Then you’ll have a guide for a Gospel conversation with someone.
I want to bring out a couple of things from today’s Bible reading.
First, in Acts 8:9-25, we see the miracles performed through the hands of Philip. In addition to many others, Simon the Sorcerer (a man who got his magical power from the occult/demonic influence) was saved. When Simon saw that people received the Holy Spirit when Peter and John laid hands on them, Simon offered money for the power to do the same thing. That was a very wrong thing to do. Philip rebuked him and said, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” And Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.”
The second thing I’d like to point out is in Acts 8:26-40. Philip comes across a very important man from Ethiopia. He’s the Queen’s Secretary of the Treasury. He’s reading from a scroll that contains the Old Testament book of Isaiah. Philip asks if he understands what he’s reading. The man responds, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. (Acts 8:31) Philip climbs into the chariot and explains that the Scriptures in question (Isaiah 53:7-8) address Jesus as the sacrificial Lamb of God.
The first application point is for Acts 8:9-25: You can’t buy God’s anointing. And trying to reveals corrupt motives and a dark heart. Granted, Simon was a brand new Believer. New Believers don’t know what you can and can’t do. But look at his response in Acts 8:24: “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.” His response reveals that the Holy Spirit was doing a work in his heart. He begged for God’s grace and forgiveness. He didn’t want to incur the judgment of believing in a transactional religion.
Transactional religion haunts many of us in Western Culture. It’s the belief that you can make a deal with God. You do this and God will do that. You put some coins in God’s vending machine and the machine will give you the blessings that you select.
But God doesn’t practice transactional religion. God doesn’t make deals. In fact, making deals with God reveals that you really don’t understand the concept of grace. Grace is favor that God gives despite our unworthiness. If God only gave based on our worthiness, He wouldn’t be in the grace business; He’d be in the wages business. Grace is undeserved. Wages are deserved/earned.
The second application point concerns Acts 8:26-40. Unless someone explains the Gospel to someone, they will not understand it. In our fallen state, we have no desire for spiritual things. Oh, we may be involved in an intellectual pursuit of spiritual concepts, but unless God does a miraculous work in our hearts, we won’t come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. We won’t because we can’t.
Lost people need you and me to be available. Lost people need you and me to pray for God to work in their hearts. And lost people need you and me to always be ready to tell people about Jesus. (1 Peter 3:15)
Who are you praying for? Who do you need to tell about Jesus? If no one tells them about Jesus’ offer of grace, they’ll never know. Are you prepared to tell them?
In today’s Bible reading, the Apostles come to a point where they realize they can’t do it all. And that’s a good thing!
People began accusing the Apostles of overlooking the Hellenistic (Gentile) widows and giving preference to Jewish widows. That may or may not have been the case, but the accusation was made.
Rather than deny that there was a problem or telling the people to get over it, the twelve Apostles summoned the help of other believers. “We can’t do it all. Actually, trying to do it all is causing us to neglect our main calling. We need help. We — the ordained — need to delegate all of the ministry activities to you — the ordinary — so that we can dedicate ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word.” (Acts 6:2-4)
At this point, the Apostles more deeply understood the ramifications of the fulfillment of Joel 2:28-29. The Holy Spirit would empower ordinary people — not just ordained people — to do the work of ministry. The Kingdom-sized task of expanding the Kingdom of God through reaching out and equipping would require the gifts of Kingdom Citizens. For this specific task, they appointed only seven. Seven men, full of the Holy Spirit would serve tables. Seven men, full of the Holy Spirit would do menial — and important life-affirming and life-sustaining — tasks. Yes, even menial tasks require the equipping power of the Holy Spirit.
No task in the Kingdom of God can be done adequately without the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Kingdom Citizens. No task. Even serving food to widows.
If serving food to widows requires Holy Spirit empowerment, how much more does administering the business of the church, teaching and discipling, hospitality, evangelism, and church planting? How much more does preaching and leading of worship of the King?
No Kingdom Citizen can fulfill his/her Kingdom calling without being empowered by the Holy Spirit. Are you walking in His power? Are you relying on Him to guide and direct you in whatever ministry He has called you to do?
Ask God to fill you anew today. Ask for a fresh outpouring on you and your tasks for today.
All Kingdom Citizens need a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit because we all leak. (Ephesians 5:18)
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
(1 Peter 4:10–11 ESV)